Ways to find employment after incarceration

Ways to find employment after incarceration

Imagine returning from prison or jail to a pandemic world and an uncertain economy, hoping to find a job or training that can lead to sustainable employment. A criminal record, together with the factors that led to that record in the first place, can create substantial barriers along the way.

Happily, even during the pandemic, there are many jobs available and many kinds of assistance with locating jobs, preparing for work, and finding help with job-related costs and transportation.

For returning citizens within the first six months of release from prison (and sometimes longer), re-entry services are available through Anazao Community Partners. Referrals can be made for counseling, healthcare, mental health and addiction, and employment programs. Anazao also administers an Employment Resource Fund grant that can help with employment-related expenses such as finishing a training program, getting required clothing or reinstating a driver’s license. To reach the re-entry services coordinator, call 330-264-9597.

For finding job openings and getting help with the application process, Ohio Means Jobs is an immediate resource. At the OhioMeansJobs Wayne County Center, 358 W. North St. in Wooster, job seekers can receive resume assistance, interview preparation and job searching. The center offers access to phones, computers and printer use.

The resource room is open by appointment Monday through Friday. Call 330-264-5060 to schedule an appointment. Career planners are available to meet virtually (WayneCoJobs@jfs.ohio.gov) or by phone at 330-264-5060 to explore financial assistance for short-term, in-demand skill-training programs.

Goodwill Industries’ Workplace Connections program has benefited many returning citizens. A case manager helps each client develop an employability plan, which may include obtaining a GED or secondary credential. Many online courses and instructor-led workshops are available including interviewing, resume writing, financial literacy, budgeting, time management, job retention and job searching. The program also offers funding for expenditures such as work clothing or gas. The only eligibility requirement is a desire to obtain and retain employment. Call 330-287-5073, visit the office to fill out an application at 1034 Nold Ave. in Wooster or go to www.goodwillconnect.org.

The Counseling Center of Wayne and Holmes Counties offers those with barriers to employment such as mental illness or substance abuse, physical disabilities, or a criminal record a chance to connect with competitive employment in the community. Clients can learn job-development skills: resume writing, interview preparation, how to discuss a criminal record with an employer, work-place communication, managing mental-health symptoms on the job and budgeting. Once the client finds employment, support is provided while the client transitions and adjusts to the new job. Call the counseling center at 330-264-9029 for more information or to apply for the program.

Another program that may be helpful to some returning citizens is offered by Community Action of Wayne/Medina. Getting Ahead helps clients construct a personalized plan and gain skills and resources to achieve their employment goals, and it provides ongoing coaching to participants after graduation. A second program, Bring Your Game to Work, focuses on financial literacy and soft-skills training to support job placement, performance and retention. Call 330-264-8677.

Community Action also offers programs that provide transportation to work, like the Wooster Transportation Program for people who live within the Wooster city limits and have an income up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Enroll in the program at Community Action or online at www.cawm.org. Once enrollment is complete, work passes can be purchased for $1.80 each for work inside Wooster and up to 3 miles outside of Wooster city limits. With a WTP pass, rides on the Wooster Transit bus, which goes to a number of locations, are free.

In addition, the Rural Mobility Solutions Work Transportation Program is open to people living anywhere in Wayne County, regardless of income. Transportation if available to work at a number of local companies at hours aligned with shift change. For information about enrollment, call Community Action at 330-264-8677 or enroll in the RMS program online at www.cawm.org.

For some returning citizens, it may be helpful to apply for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment, which can be presented to prospective employers. A judge must authorize the application. Information about the CQE is available at most of the agencies listed above and at Community Legal Aid, which also can advise about the process of felony record sealing (www.communitylegalaid.org/).

And finally, for immediate employment, don’t forget local employment agencies. Even if long-term full-time employment is not available, part-time or short-term employment can offer an entry into the job market and a chance to build a job history for the future.

The article was furnished by Susan Figge of Behind Bars and Beyond and Matt Hankins, re-entry services coordinator for Anazao Community Partners.

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